“Donald Trump – Antihero?”


Antihero is defined as a character who lacks qualities of a traditional hero - morality, courage, an obeisance to traditional rules of behavior. Wikipedia lists such fictional characters as typifying the antihero: Shakespeare's Othello, John Milton's Lucifer, Jane Eyre's Edward Rochester, F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jay Gatsby, and George MacDonald Fraser's Harry Flashman. Do you, as does Wikipedia, see our former President among that group? I leave you to be the judge.

No matter one's opinion, the word 'antihero' may make wince the large swath of Americans who see Mr. Trump as a villain - some for his character, which was revealed in his lack of positive response during the afternoon of the January 6 riots; others for his antiestablishment/anti-elitist credentials, which threatened official Washington, including members of January 6 committee. 'Hero,' even when preceded by 'anti' would not be to their liking.

Yet even those who despise him cannot ignore the fact he was (and is) a hero to his estimated twenty to thirty million die hard supporters, most of whom live in non-elitist communities and work in non-establishment jobs. His supporters, who encompass all genders and races, see big-city and suburban financial and cultural elites as sanctimonious, hypocritical, and uninterested in the social and economic mobility that has characterized the United States. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Joseph Epstein, wrote "My sense is that just as Mr. Trump gave us Joe Biden, liberal culture earlier gave us Mr. Trump." I agree. Mr. Trump was thrust upon us, in reaction to those who derided American history, patronized minorites and who treated millions of white, working-class Americans as 'deplorables.' Those who now reject him most vehemently bear primary responsibility for his political rise.

Donald Trump went to Washington to clean out the "swamp," and the "swamp" fought back just as Senator Chuck Schumer said it would, when he told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC in January 2017: "Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you...he's being really dumb to do this." Ms. Maddow did not follow up, as a good investigative journalist would have done, on the implication that intelligence services have too much power, that they embody the "swamp."

Had Mr. Trump been born five hundred years earlier, Shakespeare might have found him a candidate for one of his tragedies. He has an outsized ego and lacks principle, but he took on an adversary (the "swamp") embedded so deeply into our culture that attempts to cleanse it were akin to Hercules' task of cleaning the Augean Stables. Sadly, unlike Hercules, he failed.

Regardless of whether Mr. Trump is an antihero, hero or neither, it is my ardent wish - despite what he achieved: increased employment and incomes for minority workers, the Abraham Accords, restoration of pride in America's imperfect greatness and more - that he retire from public life and release Republican candidates to battle issues not personalities. However, despite their demonization of him for his moral shortcomings following the 2020 election, Democrats do not want this to happen, for they recognize that their best chance of election success in 2022 and 2024 is to keep his name front and center, which is the fundamental - though unstated - excuse for the January 6 committee. Mr. Trump has become Democrats' biggest asset and Republicans' biggest liability. It is why Democrat PACs throw money at Republican fringe candidates supported by Mr. Trump. (Ironically and indicative of our odd state of political affairs, Mr. Biden has become Democrats' biggest liability and Republicans' biggest asset.)

Frankly, I do not care whether Donald Trump is considered an antihero or not. He is (and was) a force of nature that arose to contest an increasingly out-of-touch, entitled, moralizing and self-righteous elitist establishment - composed of people from both political parties - who instinctively disagree with the Chinese proverb that it is better to teach a man to fish than to give him a fish. While Mr. Trump was (and is) a flawed man, there was good his Administration accomplished. And his Presidency was tragic in that it cost him a fortune, damaged what reputation he had, and the "swamp," as we know through the ongoing (and unheralded) Durham investigation, survives. That is a tragedy for all Americans.

Sydney Williams

July 28, 2022